we are under unprecedented siege
BY NDAHI MARAMA, Maiduguri
University of Maiduguri UNIMAID) is located on the outskirts of Maiduguri, Borno State capital. With a total of 27 kilometres back border, the campus has no perimeter fencing. For this reason, many people believe the security of the university is compromised. The analysts are right. The institution is under Boko Haram siege. Insurgents take advantage of the porous border to enter the campus and attack residents. Before the institution started witnessing suicide attacks some two years ago, over 70 professors and several other staff and students were said to have left UNIMAID following lingering insurgency in Borno. Insurgency in the state actually began in 2009, leading to gun attacks, suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings.
Meanwhile, the institution has remained open despite the huge security challenge until recently when it went on break.
And with the recent return of relative peace to Borno, many of those who had left the university because of the fear of the unknown were gradually returning. However, suicide attacks targeting the campus, of late, have generated fear and confusion among the staff, students and parents.
The latest attack, which occurred on Sunday, June 25, was the eighth in six months.
Professor Aliyu Mani of the Veterinary Medicine Department of the university was killed while performing his early morning prayer in a mosque that was targeted by suicide bombers during one of the attacks.
A UNIMAID security guard, Becky Edubi, died in another.
Narrating the June 25 attack, Borno State Police Commissioner of Police, Damian Chukwu, confirmed that 16 people, including the UNIMAID security guard, were killed while 13 others were injured when multiple suicide bombers gained entry into the university campus and nearby Zannari village.
Chukwu lamented that despite the robust arrangements made by the police and other security agencies, which led to peaceful conduct of recent Sallah across the state, desperate suicide bombers, who were denied access to unleash mayhem on soft targets and prayer grounds, took advantage of the night and detonated their Improvised Explosive Devices, IEDs.
“At about 10:21pm on Sunday, a male suicide bomber gained access into the office of the security personnel in the university, detonated IEDs strapped to his body, killing himself and critically injuring three security personnel”, he said.
“Unfortunately, one of the security guards, Becky Edubi, later died while receiving treatment at University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital.
“As we were attending to the situation at the scene, two other suicide bombers sneaked into a residential building in Zannari village behind the institution killing themselves with other eight persons.
“Another female suicide bomber, who was arrested, later died as a result of the injury she sustained after detonating her IEDs.
“Regrettably, few hours later, additional two suicide bombers invaded the university through the Entrepreneurship/Skills Acquisition Centre and one other around the Works Department, killing themselves.
“But normalcy has been restored after we deployed our Explosive Ordinance Department, EOD, team to the university.
“All the injured victims are responding to treatment at various hospitals in the state”.
Governor Kashim Shettima visited the scenes of the multiple suicide attacks following which he approved the immediate release of N50m for the on-going digging of trenches behind the university to stop the Boko Haram bombers from using the porous area to access the school in the dead of the night.
Shettima had two weeks earlier mobilized contractors to start the digging in response to previous attacks.
He announced that he was releasing the money not only to fund the digging exercise but also to support the payment of allowance to local vigilantes who are to work with the military in policing the porous areas.
The trenches are designed to make it impossible for insurgents to drive into UNIMAID and also create obstacles for insurgents who cross on foot while the military will take advantage of being at the top to neutralize them.
The governor said even though the university is a federal institution, it was Borno government’s responsibility to intervene in securing lives and preventing insurgents from forcing the closure of the school.
A university official, who conducted Shettima round the scenes, was elated by Shettima’s intervention. He revealed that UNIMAID had requested for N2.8 billion to enable it fund the erection of perimeter fence round the exposed portions of the school adjacent to Sambisa forest.
The governor later went into the Vice Chancellor’s Office and presided over a security meeting that was attended by the Garrison Commander of the 7th Division of the Nigerian Army, the Commissioner of Police, Chukwu, and those in charge of internal security at the university.
During the closed – door meeting, a decision was taken to increase the number of armed security personnel to be deployed for the policing of the porous areas of UNIMAID. The meeting agreed to contribute armed personnel from the Army, the local vigilante, the university security guards in addition to erecting additional points for distance surveillance and night vision surveillance gadgets.
Chukwu gave assurance that surveillance will be increased by the police.
Unsettled by the attacks, the university community, under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), National Association of Academic Technologists (NATT) and Student Union Government (SUG), cried out.
It decried the attacks and pleaded with the Federal Government to immediately take security measures to safeguard the institution.
The Chairman of the local chapter of ASUU, Dr. Dani Mamman, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard on behalf of the staff unions, said, “The happenings on our campus since January 16th, 2017, when two suicide bombers attacked the university, which resulted in the death of Professor Aliyu Mani of the Veterinary Medicine Department, as well as the latest attack, which claimed the life of a security personnel, with property estimated at millions of Naira destroyed, are worrisome”.
Mamman explained that the staff and students of the university had been pushed to the wall to intimate the public and the Federal Government with recent developments concerning the vicious and desperate attempts by insurgents to infiltrate UNIMAID and cause havoc that have generated anxiety, palpable fear and confusion.
“It is unfortunate that our outcry to the Federal Government through the Minister of Education to provide adequate security and perimeter fencing with security gadgets for the university fell on deaf ears”, he said.
“And it is disheartening that neither the Federal Government nor the Hon. Minister of Education has deemed it fit to visit the university or send a delegation to commiserate with us on the attacks and killings.
“For the avoidance of doubt, if no immediate action is taken to protect our members, we shall be compelled to call our congresses to consider taking drastic actions, which will not auger well for our students and their parents.
“Besides, we cannot guarantee the re-opening of the university for the 2017/2018 academic session in October, if government fails to meet our demands for enhanced security and safety of lives and property on campus”.
The ASUU leader however commended Shettima for releasing N50 million for the digging of trenches along the porous borders of the institution through which some of the Boko Haram attackers have access to the campus, as well as security agencies for their sacrifice and commitment to protecting the university community.
In another development, the UNIMAID Vice Chancellor, Professor Ibrahim Abubakar Njodi, debunked reports that he cancelled the concluded results of the university’s Second Semester 2016/2017 examinations due to manipulation.
Njodi said that contrary to claims that he held a press conference on Thursday, June 29 to announce the cancellation of the exams, there was nothing of such, saying the claims were a calculated attempt to mislead members of the public, particularly students, parents and staff.
TIMELINE OF ATTACKS
- January 16, 2017, a suicide bomber attacks one of the mosques at the university, killing Professor Alibi Mani.
- January 31, a suicide bomber strikes in a mosque in Dakota Quarters near the university. One dead.
- February 17, a foiled suicide attack around Mina and Lakers villages, adjacent to the institution, leaves suicide bombers dead after being shot by security operatives.
- April 19, Governor Kashim Shettima summons an emergency meeting with heads of the military, the police and other security apparatus in the state with a view to ending the attacks on campus.
- May 13, multiple suicide attacks rock campus hours to the time hundreds of candidates are billed to write their 2017 UTME. A security guard, Mr. Daniel Musa, is killed one week after his traditional marriage.
- May 19, the management of the institution engages 50 local hunters to complement the security forces deployed to the institution.
- June 17, 17 people are confirmed dead at Kofa village, about 5 kilometres drive to the UNIMAID as suicide bombers sneak into the institution before they are repelled by security forces.
- June 26, multiple attacks rock university, security guard dies.
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